Saturday, July 5, 2014

An Anniversary Delight

Okay, now I know that something's definitely going on with the camera. There's no chance that I wouldn't have taken a picture of this bottle or the event (that is, except for the shot on Delectable). It's a rare occasion that I pop the cork on a $100+ bottle of wine. But, if your anniversary doesn't count as one of those "pull that cork" events, I don't know what does. I must have taken a picture or two. They're just nowhere to be found.

1668.  2001 Domaine de la Solitude - Cuvée Barberini (Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC - Rhône - France)

I picked this wine up at the Vancouver International Wine Festival a couple of years back. Not being in the habit of buying $100+ wines, I have have to be pretty darned sure that I know what's in the bottle - and that we're going to really, really like it - before I pull out my wallet. The Festival tasting was the perfect opportunity to both discover the wine and know that I wanted more. I went back to try this wine at least three or four times and I sent many a friend over to the winery table when they asked "What have your favourite wines been so far?"

I don't believe that Domaine de la Solitude can normally be found in the Vancouver market and, if memory serves, this might have even been their first visit to the Festival. I don't know if there are many wineries in the Rhône that can claim family ties that truly bind the family to the very reason for the name of the Châteuneuf-du-Pape region. Operated by the Martin and Barberini families for centuries, one of the Barberini's took office in Rome as Pope Urban VIII and two of his nephews became Cardinals. This was in the early 1600's and this was also when "a part of the family then settled down in Avignon." I should think that, if anyone is entitled to make Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it's a family that can claim a Pope as one of its own - particularly since the family was making wine at their vineyard before the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape even existed.

As my sister, Vixen, is always very happy to point out, if Boo and I were involved in the making of wine, we'd be making Châteauneuf-du-Poof.

I could only hope that it would be as tasty as this wine. You might say that the Cuvée Barberini is one of the winery's premium bottles - although they do produce a bottle that goes for almost double the price of this one. Like Port or Champagne, this wine is only made in years deemed worthy of a vintage designation. After this 2001 bottling, another vintage of Cuvée Barberini wasn't released until 2004.

If the wine didn't already have a venerable name like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they could have gone with the Aussie moniker, GSM, because the 2001 blend was "simple" with 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre.

Balanced and integrated with dark fruit and smooth tannins, the wine could have aged for years to come, but it was drinking beautifully already.

I could do with more anniversary wines, more often.

Friday, July 4, 2014


1667.  2009 Bodega Santa Julia - Magna (Mendoza - Argentina)

Once again, I can't seem to find a shot of this wine except the one that I took for a Delectable entry. Good thing I get as many wines onto that site as I do.

I don't know much about Santa Julia but a quick online search show that it was established in early 1990's and is one of the labels produced by the Zuccardi Family - owners of one of Argentina's largest family-owned wineries. Now, the Zuccardi name I'm more familiar with. I know that you can find at least a couple of their wines in this blog and on The List.

The Magna is a blend of Cab Sauv (50%), Malbec (40%) and Syrah (10%) and is a step above the great assortment of Argentine brand wines that can be found in our Vancouver market. Around $16 to $20, it's a few bucks more than some of its entry level competitors but this is a big, fruit forward blend that's got the heft to knock out some of brand name Malbecs on our shelves.

Glad I had the Delectable entry to recall the wine and bottle.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Delectable Pinot Gris

Where did all the photos go? It seems that, as soon as Merlot Boy and Margarita boarded a plane to take the #2Kangaroo Tour for a week of adventure in NYC, I forgot how the camera worked. Despite probably my needing to de-tox after spending a week with the Aussies, Boo and I did continue to enjoy a glass or two while we awaited their return. I just can't find any pictures of what we drank - except for a few on my phone or those that I downloaded onto my Delectable account.

1666.  2012 Nichol Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

There's a lot of Pinot Gris produced in British Columbia. Indeed, it's the most widely planted white grape variety in the province - and it's easy to find a range of styles, from bone dry to light and fruity with a touch of sweet.

I've always like Nichol Vineyards' somewhat unique take on the grape.

Although Pinot Gris was named after a gray-ish tone often found to its skin ("gris" being French for "grey"), the grape's colouring can vary a fair bit - from a deep golden yellow through copper to brownish pink and darker. That colouring permits wineries - like Nichol and its neighbour Kettle Valley - to leave the crushed juice on its skins for a bit of time to impart some additional body, flavour ... and colour. For this 2012 vintage, the back label says that the juice is given "up to 36 hours of skin contact" - and you could easily mistake it for a Rosé.

Nichol's style also differs somewhat in that they also ferment a portion of their Pinot Gris in neutral, French oak, thereby adding a touch more body and complexity.

I think this is the fourth vintage of Nichol's Pinot Gris that I'm adding to The List. So, I won't go on any further about the winery or their Pinot Gris, but I can add a link to a post I wrote back in 2011 when the 2009 vintage was added as #904. You can easily head there for a little more extensive account should you desire.

Me, I'd like to find out why I don't have any photos for a whack of wines. Like I need another delay factor in my writing here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Aussie Touch to Canada Day

It might be not quite as celebrated as our Christmas Dine Around but the Canada Day BBQ has now become a reliable tradition in the neighbourhood as well. Not only is it a great opportunity to kibbutz with the gang but, because we're able to congregate outside as well as in, we can expand our numbers over our December do. The BBQ allows neighbours from up the block to join us, provides an opportunity for travelling Aussies to join in and gives us a chance to catch up some some old buds who have up and moved away.

The latter folks may have abandoned us on a day-to-day basis but there's one or two that we still like enough to invite back to the hood.

So long as they bring a potluck item and some booze.

1662.  2012 Red Rooster Pinot Gris (VQA Okanagan Valley)

1663.  2008 La Frenz Rattlesnake Vineyard Merlot (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

It may well have been Canada Day but Boo and I seemed to be the only ones that brought along Canadian wines. I always say that I enjoy seeing what other folks bring along to the party - probably because there are often some interesting and/or surprising choices.

Red Rooster and La Frenz wines are certainly no surprise as additions to The List. Both have been producing enjoyable wines on the Naramata Bench for years now - and Boo and I still participate in the Adopt-A-Row program that Red Rooster promotes. As such, we kind of have a bottle or two of their wines around. Our row at Red Rooster may be planted with Malbec grapes but we're equal opportunity drinkers when it comes to their wines. So, the Pinot Gris called out as a wine for the sun and fun. Since this was a party for neighbours, I figured I'd grab a bottle of La Frenz as well since they're just down the road from Red Rooster on the Bench. With this one, I figured I should give our in transit Aussie, Merlot Boy, an idea of what BC Merlot can be like. He did not turn down a second glass.

I think both wineries are fine ambassadors for BC and Canadian winemakers.

1664.  2012 Barone Montalto - Nero d'Avola Cabernet Sauvignon (Sicily IGT - Italy)

With Boo's pulled pork in good supply and Mr. Principled grilling sausages left, right and centre, it's probably a good thing that someone brought along a big ol' Sicilian red. Our neighbourhood may not exactly be the Little Italy that it was decades ago but I'm sure there's been more than a few botti's worth of Italian wines thrown back in the immediate vicinity.

I didn't know this producer at all but it's interesting to see more Sicilian wines showing up in our market. It'll be even more interesting to see if that new stream of wines sticks to Sicily's indigenous grapes - like Nero d'Avola - or if more of the international grapes start showing up in their wines, either as varietal wines or blends.

One thing that you can pretty well be guaranteed about at our neighbourhood events is that there won't be a shortage of food. We rather tend to take the word "potluck" to mean "keep eating because with any luck you won't notice any increase in the size of your pot belly." From salads to corn on the cob to cupcakes and sweets, we can pretty much be assured of pleasing vegetarian, kosher and carnivorous diets.

We haven't quite mastered the All Canada, All Dance party playlist yet, but we do serve up everything from Stan Rogers through kd lang and from Bublé to Arcade Fire. Not to mention the old Hockey Night in Canada theme song.

1665.  2012 19 Crimes - Shiraz Durif (Victoria - Australia)

If I had to guess (which I don't), I'd put a couple bucks on the fact that our 2Kangaroos brought along the 19 Crimes. Merlot Boy hadn't run across this wine back home in Oz and he was intrigued by what the label was marketing to Canadians: that many of the new settlers to Australia were criminals.

As if we didn't know all of that already.

Canada Day or not, I'm always in favour of an Aussie Shiraz. If I can send a few bucks down their way, so be it. Anything, you know, to build on our two countries' great friendship.  Besides, what goes better with a slab of barbecued meat than some juice from Down Under? That, and a big, fruity wine is just an epitome of our buddy, Merlot Boy.

I'm sure there must have been a few other wines served up during the day but these four were the only ones that I got around to trying. Since July 1st fell on a Tuesday this week, I was going to need to be at work bright and early in the morning and, therefore, needed to behave.

Besides, if there wasn't enough wine already, there was a full array of craft beers that made their way to the party as well. And, as good a boy as I might have been striving to be, I'm hardly going to turn down an opportunity to try a taste of what's in 49th Parallel's Banana Hammock.

And, on that happy was time to lower the flag and head off to catch a few winks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Day to Take It Easy

It would seem that we successfully saw Vixen and Big Trucker married yesterday and I think we all needed a bit of a rest day. We made it home in the early afternoon which was perfectly timed for a late lunch on The Drive and an afternoon nap. Vacation or not, our #2Kangaroos (as they'd taken to calling themselves on Twitter) were just as pooped as Boo and I. Boy was I glad that I'd managed to get the day off of work.

Our evening ended up being just as laid back. It's amazing what a little al fresco and a night of TV can do to revitalize a tired puppy.

1659.  2012 Tantalus Rosé (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Rosé in the garden patio comes pretty darn close to my idea of summer perfection - particularly when it's a glass of Tantalus that you're sipping on. I have to admit that my mind immediately goes to Riesling when I hear Tantalus mentioned - and that's likely followed by their bubbly. Given the stellar reputation (well earned I might add) those wines have, it might be understandable that I sometimes need a gentle reminder that there's even more Tantalus wine out there to be sipped.

The Rosé is a blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. I can't think of many wineries growing Pinot Meunier in the Okanagan. My first thought, on hearing that Tantalus has some older vines (planted in 1985) still producing, is that they'd be using them in their sparkling program. That's not the case, however, at least not presently. The winery's bubbly is all Riesling. The Meunier is dedicated to the Rosé. Okanagan producers can be full of surprises; that's for sure.

I took the picture in front of our raspberry vines because it was a great reminder of the fruity acidity that is so abundant with the wine.

Following last night's banquet and our hefty lunch earlier in the day, our guests let me off easy for kitchen duty. They swore a little pappardelle and a simple tomato, basil and prosciutto sauce would be more than enough. So long as there was plenty of wine flowing as well.

I mean, duh.

Our next bottle wasn't exactly Italian, but I figured a Portuguese red can fill in on the odd occasion. I'd pulled this bottle out earlier in expectation of opening it for one of the World Cup games. Indeed, I'd expected to open a few Portuguese wines during this year's competition but their team was knocked out much earlier than expected - and I felt that I needed to open at least one bottle.

1660.  2006 Quinta do Crasto - Crasto (Douro D.O.C. - Portugal)

The Crasto is made from grapes that are well know in Portugal but they're largely unrecognized elsewhere in the world: Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional don't flow off the tongue nearly as easily as Merlot, Cab Sauv or Pinot Noir.

Having advised Merlot Boy and Margarita that Quinta do Crasto is a perennial favourite at the Vancouver International Wine Festival - particularly when Miguel Roquette is manning the tasting booth. A quick viewing of Miguel's picture had Merlot Boy ready to swear off Merlot and fly off straight to Portugal. Margarita said that he'd have to somehow manage to get there before her first.

The wine wasn't a hard sell.

I may have gotten off easy with kitchen duty but Boo decided to make his trademark pecan pie for our Aussie guests. Not that I'd ever try to dissuade him from making a pie.

1661.  2010 d'Arenberg - The Stump Jump Sticky (Adelaide Hills/McLaren Vale - Australia)

That pie is one sweet mother; so, any further wine would have to be just as lush. I'd run across a bottle of The Stump Jump Sticky and grabbed it. I'm an easy sell on stickies but I don't think even the Aussies had run across this one before. We were all intimately familiar with The Stump Jump as an every day bottle to be reckoned with, but a sticky from d'Arenberg was another thing.

The wine is a blend of botrytis affected Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon and Pinot Gris and is a relative bargain compared to Sauternes or to BC's icewines. It was tough to hold up to Boo's pie but it was a great finish to the evening as we did a bit of a binge viewing of more Archer episodes. Not only was the wine a sweet finish but we could only imagine how much fun Archer could have with a "sticky" wine. For those who are familiar with the show - "phrasing."

Good thing we had a relatively easy day though because we were scheduled to be back on the full ride with prepping for the neighbourhood Canada Day picnic now mere hours away. Heavy sigh.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finally, A Married Lady

"Sadie, Sadie, married lady
See what's on my hand
There's nothing quite as touching 
As a simple wedding band." 

I don't remember there being a brother-in-law featured on the Brady Bunch but it would appear that I'll be playing that role with our family's new real life Brady Bunch. There are six of them but the kids in this family will just be a tad older than on the TV show. Thankfully. I won't say how long my sis, Vixen, has been waiting for her big wedding day but shall we say that she's been planning it (in theory) long before Big Trucker appeared on the scene and fell into the main squeeze role with such gusto.

Since the wedding was being held outside of Vancouver proper, we booked hotel rooms in the Valley and set up shop for what promised to be a memorable evening.

1654.  N.V. La Jara Organic Prosecco Extra Dry (Treviso DOC - Italy)

We arrived at the hotel with a bit of time to spare before the ceremony was slated to start. So, Boo and I invited our little gang over for a cocktail and to catch as much of the Costa Rica v. Greece World Cup playoff game.

I figured a bit of bubbly would suit the occasion and brought along the Aperol to stretch out the Prosecco. After all, can there ever be enough Spritz at a wedding?

I didn't know anything about La Jara when I grabbed the bottle but I knew it was one I hadn't added to The List yet and it can be difficult to find new Prosecco's to add since most of them are non-vintage and I can only add a particular bottle once - unless it's a different vintage (who made these rules?). Anyhow, this little sparkler - traditionally made from 100% Glera grapes (which are probably unknown to almost all wine drinkers) - is just another bit of celebration on a day already full of celebration.

Despite all of Vixen's planning, however, we had to finish our cocktails and head to the ceremony just as the soccer game was heading into overtime. Some planning.

I know Vixen was saddened by the fact that our Mom passed away before the wedding but she rejoiced in the fact that Mom knew the date - and knew how happy Vixen was - before she passed on. Having Dad and Vixen's three kids all participate in the wedding procession was a small way of ensuring that Mom was in attendance in spirit all the same.

Unlike Boo's and my ceremony (ceremonies) where we could serve whatever booze we wanted to bring in - at cost (can you say 30 Litres of vodka for martinis?) - Vixen and Big Trucker had to choose from a very limited - and costly - wine list. Facing a burgeoning budget, they opted for more economical bottles so that they could order more of them.

1655.  2012 Peller Estates Family Select Pinot Blanc (VQA British Columbia)

1656.  2012 Cupcake Red Velvet (California)

I thought the Pinot Blanc was an interesting choice. We don't tend to see many people choose it as a varietal wine - despite the fact that there are those in the know (cue Barb Philip MW) who would argue that Pinot Blanc could well be a varietal wine for BC winemakers to concentrate on as a signature grape. It was the easy sipper it needed to be for the wide selection of food in the buffet dinner - and for a guest list that didn't include a whole lot of wine afficionados.

I think the Cupcake was a sentimental favourite for Vixen since girl loves her red velvet cake. The Zinfandel, Merlot and Petite Sirah blend is the big, fruit forward red that a beer-loving crowd just might go for.

Despite it being my sister's wedding and there being a good assortment of relatives present, I didn't know a hefty portion of the guests. Luckily, a few of our best friends have become friends of Vixen as well over the years. Consequently, Elzee, Merlot Boy, Margarita, Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed were all with us to share in the event.

One couple I did recognize was Guru and Bride of Frank'n'wine. I wandered by their table to catch up and to reminisce about their wedding - and all the special wines they'd pulled corks on at their special day. Indeed, their wedding was one of my early posts on the blog. I probably shouldn't have been surprised that they had a bottle upgrade or two waiting at their table.

1657.  2011 Ravenswood Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel (Lodi - California) 

Like the Cupcake, this (predominantly) Zin was rounded out with a healthy shot of Petite Sirah but I don't think it's too much of a surprise to learn that the Ravenswood packed a more nuanced punch. Ravenswood, in the Vancouver market, is known for its approachable wines - especially at the entry level - but this Lodi Old Vines is the first step above the Vintners Blend. I could have stayed a whole lot longer with Guru and Bride-y but I had to simply accept a refill and schmooze some more with the other guests.

I did invite them to come by our table later though because I had a bit of a treat to bring out as the evening wore on as well.

1658.  2006 Langmeil - Valley Floor Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia) (1.5L bottle)

Langmeil's Valley Floor Shiraz is a definite favourite of mine and I've had this magnum lying around for awhile. I thought my little sis' wedding was a pretty decent opportunity to pull the cork. I'm not kidding myself with this Shiraz. It's definitely bold and fruit forward in that New World Aussie style that many have come to dial back from but Langmeil definitely hits the spot with me. I can still remember the first time I tried a Valley Floor Shiraz - it was at a fundraiser for Ronald MacDonald House many years back and I played "plus one" for Elzee. The event was being held in house worthy of the Real Housewives of Vancouver and the rep for Langmeil was serving up his new entry off to the side in the kitchen. We ignored the sponsor's wines from then on and just kept heading back for more of the Valley Floor.

And from the Valley Floor (perhaps thanks to the Valley Floor and other wines), there was eventually a fair bit of action on the dance floor. Once the DJ's arm was twisted to play It's Raining Men, there was no turning back. I had at least three people come up to me and smile as they told me that they remembered my Mom at Boo's and my wedding where she was out on the dance floor throwing her arms into the air singing along to It's Raining Men.

Guess there was no mistaking that Mom was at Vixen's wedding after all.

By the time our crowd was singing "Red Wedding" to Billy Idol, it was time to call it a night and to send our married couple off on their honeymoon.

Here's wishing Vixen and Big Trucker many happy trails as they move forward in life together. I know there'll be more than a couple of bottle added to The List with them as drinking buddies. Cheers.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Touring and Tasting

It appears that Boo and I may need to come up with a whole new wardrobe this fall. The Canucks traded Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison and, wouldn't you know, those are the two current player jerseys that we sport.

The Garrison trade was a bit of a surprise and, since he didn't leave Vancouver while in everyone's bad books, Boo can probably get away with still wearing the #5 jersey. I'm not so sure I want to keep going with my Kesler jersey though. Sure enough, I got three or four good years out of it - and the city loved Kesler during the 2011 playoff run. He might still be able to make the odd Aussie smile, but I think all the locals got the impression that Ryan was all about himself and cared nothing for the Canucks, his teammates or the city. Too bad. But good riddance, I suppose. Makes me want to find out if you can get jersey numbers changed after the fact.

Putting aside the trades, we moved on to happier activities with our #TwoKangaroos. We couldn't entice Merlot Boy out of bed with a trip to the Trout Lake Farmers Market but Margarita and I completed a tasty tour in the morning. Then Boo and Merlot Boy joined us and we all spent the afternoon touring Gastown.

When you consider how many of the shops seemed new to Boo and me, it was clear that we don't get down to this part of VanCity very often. We passed some "new" restaurants that looked pretty tasty and Boo and I clearly need to make it back to the carpet shop because we barely poked our heads into the store and saw two gorgeous silks that may need to add some colour to our household.

As we were finishing off our tour, we discovered that we'd parked right next to Bambudda, a new-ish entry to the Gastown scene serving up modern Chinese and inventive cocktails. They were just opening the doors as we sauntered by and the empty bar seats right at street level were just too inviting for four tired wanderers to pass up.

I'd seen a few tweets recently that raved about the cocktails at Bambudda. So, it seemed like a no-brainer for us to do a little research of our own. The drinks arrived both pretty and pretty tasty. There's definitely potential to do a whole lot of damage as you sip your way through the drink menu. Despite the tawdry comments that flew from Merlot Boy's lips, I went for the Sum Yung Gai - a concoction of gin, Cava, lemon, maraschino and lavender syrup. merlot Boy himself went ordered the Bubble Tea and it, with Gin, Blue Curaçao and hibiscus bubbles, was sure a looker. Boo and Margarita opted for "classics": Satan's Whiskers and Mother-in-Law which Bambudda says are both cocktails from circa 1890.

Something tells me, wine blogger or not, we'll be back.

The possibility of heading out on the town was proffered but our Aussies opted to stick around the home front. With Cher behind them, a day's worth of walking just completed and a wedding on the morrow's agenda, a night of adding bottles to The List and a binge-viewing of Archer episodes seemed as adventurous as our buds wanted to be.

1650.  2013 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough - New Zealand)

Despite her nom de blog, Margarita's sip of choice is probably Sauv Blanc and this Stoneleigh is one of her "go-to's." Offering up classic Kiwi notes, it was still easy to see why this is a pleaser for Margarita. It was determined that, despite the classic notes, the wine was "neither overly acidic nor cat pee-y." Seems appealing enough to me on a summer's eve.

Then, the reds kicked in. Merlot Boy had picked up a couple bottles of Aussie Shiraz at the local shop. Funny, guy travels half way around the world to drink his home country drops.

1651.  2011 Vinaceous Wines - Snake Charmer Shiraz (McLaren Vale - Australia)

I can't say that I know much about Vinaceous Wines. Given the labels, my guess is that it's a commercial venture along the lines of critter wines - without the critters on the label. Or, maybe, just critters of a different sort. Their website states that "the Vinaceous concept is to produce seven distinctive wines representing seven personalities - men, women, angels, demons, mermaids...and other creatures of mythology!" Their wines are sourced from "the best regions suited to the chosen varietals." So, we're definitely talking about a Down Under négociant concept.

Commercial enterprise or not, we still found it tasty enough. I believe the collective response to my "what do you think?" was "a tad stronger than 'charming' but a charmer all the same."

1652.  2012 The Black Chook Shiraz Viognier (McLaren Vale - Australia)

Roos, snakes, chooks (Aussie for chicken). What is it with Aussies, animals and wine? My learned guess is that they all just drink like fish. Then, with so many big, tasty sips within easy reach, who could blame them? The Black Chook is a project that brought in noted South Australian winemaker/consultant, Ben Riggs, to shepherd this Aussie take on the northern Rhone co-ferment of Shiraz with Viognier.

Hardly a critter wine. I likely wouldn't have gravitated to this bottle because of the name and label. I guess it just goes to show that, if you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the same can be said about judging a wine by its label.

2005 Orofino Merlot Cabernet (Similkameen Valley)

With all the antipodean bottles hitting our glasses, I thought I'd serve up a bit of curveball. I didn't tell our guests what it was that I'd opened and they thought this wine was even bigger than the Aussie Shiraz we'd been sipping. They were pleasantly surprised when I told them it was another Orofino wine from the Similkameen. We'd completed our Orofino Riesling trio the other night; so, I figured it couldn't hurt to try a red as well. The two Roos didn't think BC wines were supposed to be a full as this.

Unfortunately, I don't get to add the bottle to The List this time around. With Orofino being one of my favourite wineries, I suppose I should be surprised that the '05 Merlot Cab was added to The List all the way back at #433. Still drinking good though.

1653.  2005 Pisano - EtXe Oneko Licor de Tannat (Uruguay)

The final bottle of the night was a surprise and a treat. Since Merlot Boy and Margarita arrived, I haven't been playing up World Cup entries to the blog much. This bottle was a tip of the cap to Uruguay's run at the 2014 Cup. They lost their Round of 16 playoff game to Colombia earlier in the day but their show was still worthy of a nightcap of a bottle.

This was a bottle that I'd been given at the Wine Blogger's conference last year in Penticton. Luckily, the Uruguayan producers had some bottles left at the end of the conference and I managed to score this rarity (at least to me) as they didn't (or couldn't) take everything with them.

Made from 100% Tannat grapes, the wine combines techniques from both Amarone and Port. The grapes are left to desiccate on the vine for an extra month before pressing. They were then fermented to a desired level of residual sugar and topped off with grape alcohol to stop the fermentation. A second batch of grapes that had been left even longer on the vine were then added to the fermentation tanks in whole clusters. After approximately six weeks, the wine was pressed off and barrel-aged for another six months. Rich, tasty, fruity, dark. Right up my alley.

And, again, that's from Tannat grapes. Not going to find many wines using this production method.

Hardly the equivalent of an Aussie sticky, we were all taking a big bite out of this Luis Suarez of a wine.

And on that happy note, we bid "good night" to Archer and each other. Wedding prep and bells were calling on the horizon.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dressed to Kill

We'd been sitting on tickets for probably nine months but, finally, the time had come. I won't say that the Cher concert was the reason that Merlot Boy and Margarita had come to Vancouver - after all there were some landmark birthdays and a wedding to fit in as well - but I think it's safe to say that there was a bit of excitement when we discovered that the concert lined up with their arrival in our fair city. I'm not sure whether Mr. D was more excited to see Merlot Boy or Cher, but D was also joining us for the evening.

And not only were we spending the night with the Dark Lady, but we were also lucky enough to be treated to a great beginning with another favourite - Cyndi Lauper.

As is only befitting an evening of such great import, we popped the cork on a bottle of bubbly to kick off our evening. That is to say, we sabered the cork on a bottle of bubbly. And, naturally, we nibbled on a bit of caviar as well to get into the mood.

As one does.

1649.  N.V. Montaudon Brut (Reims - AOC Champagne - France)

Montaudon is not a Champagne house that I'm familiar with at all. This bottle was a gift that we held onto for a bit - waiting for a bubbly kind of occasion. Montaudon is somewhat of a venerable name in Champagne, however, as it has been in existence since 1891 and had seen four generations of the Montaudon family at the helm before it was sold in 2008. The house is now part of the LVMH portfolio. You know, those folks behind Louis Vuitton, Möet Chandon and Hennessy.

The wine was very approachable. Not in a Baby Duck kind of way, but there was a good whack of apple and pear on the palate and the biscuit notes were subtle. Of course, Aussies are well-known bubble-philes and our #TwoKangaroos (as they had christened themselves on Twitter) were more than up to the task of finishing off the bottle in time to get us out the door and down to the stadium.

We actually made it down to Rogers Arena with time to spare and there would have been a second bottle to add to The List but the bar we visited only sold wine on tap. They didn't have any bottles to buy. Drats.

I was rather surprised to see that Cyndi was the opening act. I should think that she's got plenty of clout in drawing her own slew of fans. But we were glad for her joining us. I'd wanted to go see her when she last came to Vancouver for an outdoor, summer festival but I couldn't make it. Guess I got two birds with one stone with this concert.

As if it wasn't enough to win me over with all the old memories of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, She Bop and Time After Time, Cyndi scored a knockout when she threw on a Canucks jersey to finish off her set - with the one and only, classic, True Colours. Love her - and, apparently, her potty mouth.

But, speaking of "one and only," our darling Cher is the personification of the phrase. Following her opening number, she announced in response to the crowd's raucous applause, "It's nothing, okay. I love to start my shows standing atop of a pillar wearing nothing but dental floss for an outfit - at 68." She immediately zinged us with the line of the night, "What's your grandma doing tonight?"

Vegas at its best! Stage. Costumes. Time travelling videos. Cirque de Soleil boys even. It was hit after hit - and we loved it!

From our floor seats, I might add.

The only thing that would have made her show even better would have been more Champagne and caviar during the set. Luckily, it was easy enough to get drunk on her iconic self.

Maybe I should add her as a bottle to The List. Something like Chateau Cher. Watch for it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Alive On The Drive

Our two Aussies were still showing a few signs of jet lag by the time I'd returned home from work and we knew that we had some hefty times just around the corner. So, Boo and I took it easy on them for the evening and just introduced them to our hood. We strolled down Commercial Drive and let them pick a cuisine that piqued their fancy from the smorgasbord that is The Drive. Pizza was the choice du jour.

1648.  2010 Pupillo - Re Federico Nero d'Avola (Sicilia Rosso IGT - Italy)

This wasn't a winery that I was familiar with but I thought the Nero d'Avola would match up pretty well with whatever pizza we decided to chow down on. I still couldn't find an awful lot about the winery when I searched it later but, from what little I did find, Pupillo seems to be a fairly new winery in the ancient area around Syracuse on Sicily. Most of the links or press I saw on the family winery related to a dessert wine, Moscato di Siracusa, that they are championing and bringing back from near extinction.

The Nero d'Avola is Pupillo's take on perhaps Sicily's best known grape. An easy drinking red, I rather thought the wine might be of a similar profile to Merlot Boy's favoured Aussie Merlots - being bigger and fruitier than most of the Chiantis or Valpolicellas that were the other well-priced Italian reds populating the wine list. We'd certainly finished off the bottle long before we boxed up our leftover 'za but I wouldn't say that the wine left Merlot Boy swearing off his beloved Merlots. I'm still up in the air.

But, you know, The Drive is Vancouver's modern version of what's left of Little Italy. So, when in Rome...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aussies in the House

We've been anticipated their arrival for months now but Merlot Boy and Margarita have finally arrived on our doorstep - and I'm thinking there's going to be a wee bit of booze playing a role in our lives as long as the Two Kangaroos are gracing our Vancouver shores.

Since neither wine nor I was involved in their initial day touring the town, I was lucky enough to arrive home with both dinner and thirsty tourists front and centre when I arrived home from work. Boo had made that most Canadian of dishes for dinner: butter chicken. So, we took advantage of the good weather and our guests and dined al fresco in the garden. A simple luxury that we don't do nearly enough.

I'd been waiting for an opportunity to open a trio of 2012 Orofino Rieslings for some time now - and, yes, that was "trio." John and Virginia Weber of Orofino decided, with their 2012 vintage, that they'd highlight the different terroirs of the three vineyards where their Riesling grapes are grown and take a slightly different approach to the production of each of the three wines.

I pointed out to Merlot Boy (who, despite his name, will drink other types of wine - or beer or vodka or whatever else you're serving) and Margarita (same side note for her drinking habits as well) that three different versions of the same varietal from a boutique, BC producer is extremely rare. Indeed, I can't think of any other similar production.

It also didn't hurt that Orofino is one of my favourite local wineries.

Normally, I'd tell a few tales about the winery and the folks behind it, but I've already added enough Orofino wines to The List that I can just point you to the post I wrote leading up to the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference. I think it's safe to say that it's as comprehensive as I get in the blog and there's no need in repeating myself here.

1645.  2012 Orofino Home Vineyard Riesling (VQA Similkameen Valley)

1646.  2012 Orofino Scout Vineyard Riesling (VQA Similkameen Valley)

1647.  2012 Orofino Hendesbee Vineyard Riesling (VQA Similkameen Valley)

Regular visitors to the blog know that Riesling and I are the fondest of friends. So, the opportunity to see how a favourite producer ventured to take three different approaches is a godsend. It's the rare occasion where Boo and I open three bottles of wine for one dinner; so, I'll admit that waiting for an occasion such as this was quite the task to hold off on pulling the cork on at least one of the bottles. Thankfully, that occasion arrived with our two antipodeans.

In talking with John at the winery, he emphasized that he's looking more and more to emphasize the single vineyard aspect of his production. Previously, Orofino's Rieslings were blended to make a single wine - and, even then, there wasn't a whole lot of it. John's practice had always been to ferment the different vineyard fruit separately but he found himself short of space with the three Rieslings; so, he aged the home vineyard fruit in used French oak (and one acacia barrel) while the other two Rieslings remained in stainless steel. He found that the three wines were different enough from each other that they warranted separate bottlings - even though that meant there'd only be 300 cases of Hendsbee, 250 cases of Scout and 100 cases of the Home Vineyard wine.

We found those different profiles to be telling as well. I often find that it's hard enough to differentiate between varietal wines from different producers, let alone wines from the same producer, but that wasn't the case here. Each wine had a telltale profile. The Hendsbee jumped out of the glass with its racy acidity, while John had left a bit of residual sugar on the Scout Riesling - not that this was a sweet wine in any sense of the word. Interestingly enough, it was the Home Vineyard that proved to be a slight favourite at the dinner table and that was the wine that saw some barrel ageing. John has talked about this wine seeing a fair bit of lees stirring (lees being the spent yeast cells and the stirring of those lees often resulting in a richer, fuller feel to the wine) and maybe it was that extra note of complexity - that cut the acidity just a touch - that made the difference.

It was no surprise that all three wines disappeared without problem, however - and I can only hope that we sip on a whole whack of other treats while the Aussies are gracing us with their presence.